Campaigners urging councillors to back £18million arena plan for Sunderland

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Campaigners backing a new £18million arena and retail development for Sunderland are urging councillors to ignore the advice of planners.

Dozens of people joined a short protest at Rainton Meadows Arena after planners for Sunderland City Council recommended the proposal, which would bring 375 jobs to the area, be rejected.

Campaigners stage protest urging councillors to give the green light to plans for a new arena at Rainton Meadows.

Campaigners stage protest urging councillors to give the green light to plans for a new arena at Rainton Meadows.

Roseberry Leisure is hoping to build a new state-of-the-art 1,400 capacity venue to replace the currently outdated Rainton Meadows Arena in Houghton and also a shopping area.

Companies such as supermarket chain Aldi, Home Bargains, Pets at Home and Costa have already committed to units should plans get the green light.

But, ahead of a meeting where the proposals will be discussed by councillors, planners have recommended that council members do not approve the scheme.

Mike Roseberry, of Roseberry Leisure, was joined by people who use the arena and local residents, to campaign for the plans to go ahead.

He said: "We have worked so hard on this for the last five years to get to this point.

"The new arena is a fundamental part of the development. We believe it will bring at least 250,000 extra visitors a year to the city."

The current arena is very well used and people come to it from all over the country. It is particularly popular for Asian weddings because of the size and location.

But, Mr Roseberry said the new arena will be bigger and able to offer much better facilities, in fact there are already future bookings for events penciled in.

The businessman said he has had around 200 letters of support from people, including many who live nearby, who are keen to see the development go ahead.

Among those excited about the development are East Rainton couple, Sam Pearson, 34, and Dan Ritson, 26, who say it would be huge boost to the area.

Sam, said: "It will be amazing for us to have this on our doorstep, I can't wait. We don't drive so for us it will be brilliant."

Dan added: "There's nothing like this close to us, so it will be a big benefit."

Karen Llewellyn, who runs KLX School of Dance Studio 2000 at the arena, said she organises a lot of national dance championships at the arena and a new building would be a huge boost.

She said: "It would be really great for everyone."

Reasons for recommending refusal of the plans cited in the report include potential traffic problems, the effect on trade the new site could have on Houghton and Hetton town centres and the environmental impact.

But, Mr Roseberry said the funding for the project is in place and work could begin by the end of the year, bringing much-needed investment and jobs to the city.

The plans are set to be heard at a meeting of the Sunderland City Council’s Development and Control Sub-Commitee on Tuesday at 5.45pm.